The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting the video to social media and then nominating others to do the same. If you refuse to take the challenge, then you’re asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of your choice.
As of this writing, the ALS Association has received over $15 million in donations—compared to $1.7 million during the same time last year—and more than 300,000 new donors! There are more than a million ice bucket videos now on Facebook.
Obviously, the campaign is a success, but at the same time let’s not make more of this than it is. We’re not seeing a fundamental change in the nature of fundraising—it’s a clever use of social media. The challenge is like sponsoring a friend—we do it because of the connection, not necessarily the cause.
Hopefully the ALS Association will make some new long-term supporters through the challenge. But that’s going to require a lot of donor cultivation on its part—and that’s the sort of work that all of us are doing. There’s also been some discussion around whether the challenge is draining money away from other causes. All campaigns and solicitations require people to make choices, and this is no different. I personally compartmentalize this sort of approach and don’t regard it as part of my overall philanthropic budget—and I think a lot of people do the same. In the end, we’re talking $15 million compared to the overall $300 billion in charitable giving annually.
The #IceBucketChallenge isn’t changing the nature of our work, but it does demonstrate what we can do if we strike the right tone while taking a reasonable risk with our outreach.
(Editor’s Note: The total is now up to $32 million and counting!)